Some bits and pieces from here and there:

  • The “National Taxpayer Advocate” (a sort of IRS ombudsman position) released her annual report on . As was the case in her report last year, she complained that the IRS is overusing its enforcement techniques of levies and liens in ways that are cruel and, even from the perspective of government revenue, counterproductive — , the number of liens the IRS has filed each year has increased by 550%, but the amount of revenue collected through such enforcement efforts has not increased at all. “By filing a lien against a taxpayer with no money and no assets, the IRS often collects nothing, yet it inflicts long-term harm on the taxpayer by making it harder for him to get back on his feet when he does get a job,” Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said. “Absent data that show liens make a meaningful contribution to revenue collection and especially in this economy, I find it unacceptable that the IRS continues to torment financially struggling taxpayers in this way.”
  • The government of Romania is threatening to tax the nation’s witches, astrologers, and fortune tellers. Curse them!

    A dozen witches will hurl the poisonous mandrake plant into the Danube to put a hex on government officials “so evil will befall them,” said a witch named Alisia. She identified herself with one name — customary among Romania’s witches.

    Queen witch Bratara Buzea, 63, who was imprisoned in for witchcraft under Ceausescu’s repressive regime, is furious about the new law.

    Sitting cross-legged in her villa in the lake resort of Mogosoaia, just north of Bucharest, she said she planned to cast a spell using a particularly effective concoction of cat excrement and a dead dog, along with a chorus of witches.

    “We do harm to those who harm us,” she said. “They want to take the country out of this crisis using us? They should get us out of the crisis because they brought us into it.”


A few days ago I went to the first class of San Francisco’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training. It is designed to train people to be useful to their neighborhoods in case of a disaster that overwhelms emergency services.

The first thing they did when I walked in the door was to take my name and hand me three sheets of paper to sign. Two were the sort of liability release forms that everybody has to sign nowadays to keep the lawyers from circling overhead. But the first one of the batch was, I kid you not, a loyalty oath.

Yessiree: I apparently cannot volunteer to help out in case of earthquake, tsunami, fire, or flood without submitting to such a thing. The section of the California Government Code that governs the program insists that I “solemnly” swear

(or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

And I do further swear (or affirm) that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that now advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means; that within the five years immediately preceding the taking of this oath (or affirmation) I have not been a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means except as follows: ________________________________________ (If no affiliations, write in the words "No Exceptions") and that during such time as I hold the office of ______________ I will not advocate nor become a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means.

Not only that, but it’s a felony to be an oath-taking disaster volunteer who nonetheless “advocates or becomes a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or violence or other unlawful means.”

It turns out, though, that even if I don’t take the oath they’ll let me take the class and learn what it takes to be helpful, but they won’t give me the helmet, vest, and membership card that makes me an official mouseketeer. I think I can live with that.

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